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Phil Davidson

Trailblazer for Children with Intellectual and Development Disabilities

Phil Davidson: Trailblazer for Children with Intellectual & Development DisabilitiesPhil Davidson, Ph.D., passed away on Thursday, February 10th, 2022. A long-time faculty member and professor emeritus of Pediatrics, Environmental Medicine and Psychiatry and former Director of the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at URMC, Davidson was a tireless advocate who played a substantial role in recognizing the health needs of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan, integrated behavioral health, and disability rights. In addition, he helped develop specialty clinics for assessment and care in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, IDD-related research at URMC, and focused education for trainees on IDD.

“Phil Davidson wore many hats in his long career – clinical psychologist, community advocate, educator and researcher,” said Dr. Susan Hyman, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and division chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (SMD). “His career at URMC paralleled the advances in recognition and care for individuals with IDD nationally. He was there as a champion each step of the way.”

Phil was the Initial Director of both the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program – which offers which offers collaborative interdisciplinary training to prepare professionals for advocacy for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities in medical and nonmedical systems - and the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) that promoted the growth of interest in employment and health equity for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities here in Rochester as well as the Division Chief of what is now Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

First awarded in 1977, the UCEDD collaborates with the community of people with disabilities and their families to create a world in which people of all ages with intellectual and developmental disabilities are valued and respected, lead self-determined lives in the community of their choice, and have the opportunity to contribute to that community and society at large.

In addition to his leadership roles at URMC, Davidson served at the President of International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD), the largest and oldest scientific organization of its kind in the world that promotes worldwide research and exchange of information on intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“His last accolade – the presidency of IASSID – was a fitting recognition of his stature in the field,” said Hyman.

Last year Davidson published a book in collaboration with Hyman – A History of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Rochester – that served as culmination of his accomplishments at URMC. During his 45-year tenure, Davidson was the supervisor for more than 50 postdoctoral fellows in pediatric psychology and predoctoral fellows in clinical psychology, and across his career, he published 177 journal articles, and 46 books/chapters.

Davidson is survived by his wife of 55 years, Margaret B. Davidson of Hilton Head Island, SC, his sons Andrew Davidson of West Chester, PA, and Alec Davidson of Marietta, GA, their wives, Carolyn and Laura, and 4 grandchildren: Jack 18, Emma 14, Luca, 17, and Nico, 13.